Still on my Korean-movies-kick comes Public Enemy. Kang Chul-Joong, a jaded but long-serving cop is left distraught when his partner commits suicide on their return from a “side assignment”. The problem is that the “assignment” involved procuring a large amount of drugs from some shady gangsters. Unfortunately, they’ve got Internal Affairs investigating them.
Kang is the original good cop who got lost on the way, eccentric and unorthodox. Now he’s the dirty cop that makes no excuses for his bad behavior, but rather, makes up for it with some natty detective work. He also has an extreme distaste for knives, after his wife was stabbed to death for refusing to comply with the instructions of an intruder in their house. So when a sweet elderly couple is found butchered in their homes and bizarrely sprinkled with flour, he is determined to solve the case, having unwittingly stumbled across the assailant on the night of the murder, whilst trying to find a place to ‘relieve himself’.
From the beginning, it’s revealed that their smooth talking son Mr. Cho is the killer in question. It seems that Cho has a fetish for killing people and his parents are the only ones. This gives an interesting perspective, as we share with Kang his knowledge of Cho’s guilt, and also his frustration at his ‘by the book’ peers, who write him off as an oddball. The movie centers on the battle between the two men, and the chase for evidence.
Kang is a disheveled character, bumbling around on screen like a Korean Columbo. He stumbles across clues and, like film cops the world over, does things his own way, often enlisting the help of other criminals to help him solve cases.
Sol is remarkable as Kang, his emotional and extremely physical reactions contrast refreshingly with Mr. Cho’s arrogant, cool demeanor. The film has a lot of humor as well, which is a nice treat. This is a cop movie with some astonishingly realistic violence, in one scene you can actually see blood pouring out of an enormous head wound.
The dialogue is sharp and witty, the friction built up between characters is immense, resulting in some great fight scenes. The characters’ way of slapping each other around the head constantly reminds you of the comedic roots should you get too engrossed in the heavy aspects and at times reminded me at Agent Gibbs in NCIS. The funniest moments come in scenes with the local culture, small-time criminals who are pulled in to help crack the case. Fearsome gangsters like Mr. Math who become gurning blubbering fools in the hands of the bemused cops. The acting is superb throughout, even the bit part players are perfect in their roles and gel together wonderfully.
There may be some points where you find yourself baffled by the pace and new clues. Not to worry, all will be revealed eventually. The running time is fairly long, but this film is so packed with substories, jokes, fights, murders and camaraderie that you are unlikely to feel it. It’s definitely something I’d recommend.